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The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

Nokia is keeping schtum amid claims it hopes to sign exclusive deals with European mobile operators for its planned Windows Phone 8 smartphones.

The handset-maker is negotiating with carriers to grant sole rights to sell its phones running Microsoft’s next mobile OS in different countries, according to the Financial Times. The carriers would have to share the cost of marketing and promoting the phones.

Such a step would be a major break with tradition for Nokia, as it has typically made its handsets available to all carriers in an effort to reach the broadest market possible.

A spokeswoman for Nokia asked by The Reg to confirm the talks said she wouldn’t comment on “speculation and rumour” but did confirm that Nokia is in "on-going" talks with carriers.

“We have excellent relationships and a regular dialogue with our operator partners. As you can appreciate, the content of those discussions is not public,” the spokesbod said.

France Telecom was identified by the FT report as one carrier with which Nokia had held talks, although no deal has yet been struck, according to the pink paper.

Nokia may well be looking to Apple's iPhone model for inspiration – and could hope that by limiting who gets the phones it can kindle some of the excitement that accompanied the first iPhone in 2007. The original iPhone was famously only available on AT&T’s network in the US, the O2 network in the UK and selected carriers in other countries.

The FT reports an exclusive deal would also give carriers that do sign up more of an incentive to sell the phones. It would certainly help spread the costs for Nokia: every Windows phone Nokia has sold in the US is estimated to have cost US partner AT&T about $450 in marketing.

Windows Phone today is a long way behind Android and Apple mobes. iOS is number one in Europe while Android is just ahead in the US on 29 per cent according to Nielsen. In the US, Windows Phone has 4 per cent market share, according to Strategy Analytics, and WP enjoys only 4.1 per cent of the market in Europe, according to IDC.

Exclusivity is no recipe for success or market takeover, though. In the US, AT&T signed up to be the sole network provider for Nokia’s Lumia 900, which is running Windows Phone 7.5 ahead of the release of this autumn’s Windows 8. AT&T started selling the Lumia 900 in April for $99.99 on a contract, but three months later it cut the price in half. Nokia just reported that overall it shipped 4.2 million Lumias, down 20 per cent compared to 2011. ®

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